Monday, January 31, 2011

Rainy Season

Friday, January 28, 2010

It’s been a very wet week here in Ambanja. The rainy season is just getting started, meaning rather than just getting heavy bursts of rain every evening, we also receive a daily deluge in the morning or afternoon. Since all the roads are dirt, things have been pretty muddy and messy. My pair of nice Rainbow sandals broke as I tried to dislodge my foot from a particularly deep mud-soup, so I now have a pair of Malagasy “Lacoste” flip-flops ($2.50). The thong straps come apart several times a day, but fixing them is just a simple matter of forcing the circular-pegged strap back through the base of the shoe.

Tuesday was a surprise. I showed up at school ready to teach my 10:00 a.m. class, and the Proviseur said, “Oh, hello M. Josh, the Seconde teachers are in here,” motioning toward the bibliotheque. I told him I had a class starting soon, to which he replied, “oh, maybe you were not informed: there is no class today and tomorrow.” I was certainly not informed, but that happens a lot around here.

So, what was going on in the library? All the teachers were gathered around giant stacks of student “bulletins,” which are small paper booklets with the student’s photo and vitals on the inside cover, followed by pages and pages of trimester report cards. I had become very familiar with these bulletins the week before when I spent an entire day copying the grades for each of my 300+ students from my grade sheet to their specific bulletin. Next to each grade there is a space for about 3 words worth of commentary and then a signature line, which I also had to fill in. These bulletins and I had not gotten off on the right foot…

The teachers were going through these bulletins, one at time, and collectively coming up with a three to four word comment for each student based on his/her average grade and class rank (the comment came in four fun flavors, roughly translated as: watch out, you’re failing; needs to study more; needs to put in more effort; and good, keep it up). The comment was written in each student’s bulletin, and then it (along with the student’s name, average grade, class rank, and number of hours absent) was meticulously copied into a master notebook. I sat there all day in order to provide “input.” It wasn’t very fun. I could have been teaching or playing guitar or both.

Although we finished filling out the bulletins on Tuesday, classes were still cancelled on Wednesday. Luckily I was able to catch a few students lounging around school Tuesday to let them know that English club was still on for the next day. Unfortunately, English club is at 4:30 and a storm rolled in right around 3:45. I had a poncho and rain pants, which kept my body pretty dry, but my shoes were a sopping mess. Mad props to the dozen or so students who trudged through the storm to meet me at school. We learned a lot of storm, food, and relationship vocab. Fun stuff.

Not much else is new around here. Until next time, I’ll be trying to keep clean and dry.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

6 Months In Country

Saturday, January 22, 2011

First post of the New Year! And the 6-month anniversary of arriving here in Madagascar. New Year’s Eve was fantastic. Once again I was fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time, which gave me the opportunity to jam with Malagasy musicians. Once again I just asked a guy playing a guitar if I could play and he enthusiastically thrust the instrument into my hands.

Back at site, I’ve been having a good time too. School’s back in session, which has been keeping me busy. I’ve also just had my first two sessions of English club (Wednesday evenings), which were a blast, but left me nearly deaf after multiple thunderous renditions of the ABC song. Friday’s I’ll be working with an anti-deforestation NGO and Saturdays I’ll be doing adult English classes for teachers and other professionals in Ambanja. And I just spoke with the owner of one of the city’s radio stations, and should be starting a weekly or bi-weekly program here soon. This year should fly by.

Right now I’m in a city called Antsohihy, which is a town at a major crossroads about 190 km south of Ambanja. I came down here to rendezvous with Jacob, Kaitlyn, and Lorin, but before I left Ambanja yesterday morning MPC told me I should stop in a small town called Befotaka (which means “lots of mud”) to meet up with my friend Momyne’s family. So, I stopped at this village in the middle of nowhere and was greeted by Momyne’s mom who introduced me to everyone as her son (I call Momyne my brother, ergo she is my mother). I walked around town with her and then took a tour of a Catholic mission with her brother before eating rice and crab sauce.

After lunch I broussed my way to Antsohihy, which is a bustling town at the intersection of several main roads. I’ll be heading back to Ambanja on Sunday. Until next time...